Thinking a base ahead
Since we had the weekend off I had a chance to watch some games at a younger level — 12U specifically. After coaching high schoolers the last few years it was interesting to take a step back and see what was missing.
Probably one of the most glaring things was how the young kids run the bases. For many, running the bases meant getting to the next base, i.e. if the runner was on first her whole focus was on getting to second. The problem with that was once she got there, her mission was accomplished. Never mind that the ball was being thrown elsewhere, and there was an opportunity to get to third. She’d done her job.
Now, this wasn’t universal. There were definitely some teams that ran the bases better. But for the most part it was a skill or knowledge level that wasn’t there.
What I see in all this is an opportunity. When you’re coaching a younger team it’s often difficult to decide what to teach first. There’s so much to know you can’t possibly cover it all, even in one year — especially when you have to go back and repeat things to make sure they sink in. But if you want to do something that can have a quick payoff, work on baserunning.
Make sure your young players understand that the objective is to make it all the way home. The faster they can do that the more you will score. (Remember that they may not understand the big picture of scoring as many runs as you can. It seems simple but it may not be to a youngster just learning the game.)
Make sure they understand that they should never settle for one base if they can get two, or settle for two bases when they can get three. Make sure they realize things can be happening all over the field, and thus they need to pay attention to what’s going on around them. The more you can get them thinking aggressively, the less work you’ll have to do to score each run. And the more you’ll be able to take advantage of your opponents’ mistakes.
By the way, your team might not be that good at it right now, but they will learn it. Mine didn’t know it either once upon a time. But they did learn it — and in a tight game the team that can run smart gives itself a much better chance of winning. You can take that to the bank!